The University of Canberra’s (UC) plans to establish a branch campus at one of Melbourne’s biggest TAFEs – Holmesglen in the city’s south-east – foundered late last month after the intervention of Federal Higher Education Minister, Chris Evans.
In a move which the NTEU ACT Division welcomed, Evans rejected the application on the basis that approval had not been granted for the University to expand beyond its designated campuses.
Under the proposed deal, Holmesglen degrees in hospitality management, fashion, screen production, executive administration and marketing management would have been rebadged as UC degrees, giving Holmesglen access to Commonwealth higher education funding.
Back in October, UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker told The Australian that subcontracting teaching to Holmesglen would "bring funding in to build our research" and give UC access to equity funds not available locally, as no ACT suburbs are classified as low socio-economic status areas. Parker touted it as "the beginnings of a national network" for UC.
The Federal Government’s rejection follows on from a failed bid by UC to take over the local Canberra TAFE and an extravagant sponsorship of a private rugby consortium (with apparently very marginal benefits to the work of the University) in 2012.
ACT Division Secretary, Stephen Darwin, told edXpress, “These series of failed and costly ventures suggest that the current strategic thinking of UC management is flawed. Instead of seeking to move on the desperate public TAFE system or engaging in elite sports sponsorships, UC management would be much better advised to focus on resourcing high quality higher education at UC's Bruce campus, where enrolments have grown dramatically in recent years.
“The decision by Minister Evans is significant as it makes it clear that uncapped places in the higher education system are designed precisely for this purpose and not as a means of moving on the public vocational education system. It is also now critically important that Minister Evans also moves similarly to stop conservative state governments further vandalising the TAFE system so Australia maintains high quality vocational education alongside a strong higher education system.”
Darwin has urged UC management to abandon its failed strategy of TAFE-based expansion.
“UC should return to its core responsibility of developing a strong and resilient university that provides decent wages and conditions, as well as investing in learning and administrative resources for the large expansion in student numbers it has admitted over the last five years.”
Darwin said it was no coincidence that Victoria’s Higher Education Minister, Peter Hall, who has overseen a $290 million cut to TAFE in his state, wanted the Federal Government to subsidize more bachelor degree places in TAFEs.
“It’s a classic cost-shifting tactic,” Darwin said. “States can savage TAFE and then put their hand out for Commonwealth-supported student places.”
Info: Stephen Darwin, ACT Branch Division Secretary: 0433 747 007; email@example.com